From the Frontlines: Keeping cool in the Iraqi heat

"It's too hot."

Those two words from one soldier say it all in the combat zone in Iraq these days as the scorching sun leaves you drenched in sweat in a matter of minutes.

"It's a dry heat," is how another soldier describes it, "kind of like being under a blow dryer, except it's everywhere."

Not only do soldiers have to deal with the dry, triple-digit heat, but dust is often kicked up by strong winds. Eye protection is a must. Masks have to be worn by some folks to protect their lungs. All-in-all it's tolerable but sometimes, miserable.

"I always describe it as sticking your face in an over and throwing sand in your face, that's what it feels like," said Major Frederick Hall, 225 Engineer Brigade surgeon.

That makes it tough on soldiers like the 225th Engineers who took part in a wheelchair distribution for disabled Iraqis. Even a few minutes in this blazing heat can be dangerous.

The army devised a heat index designed to determine the safest work schedule for soldiers. Category five is the highest level, and the most serious.

"With Heat Category five, it's usually 20 minutes of work with 40 minutes of rest. When you're doing missions like we are, we have a work cycle, and so the work is constantly getting done, but we have a work-rest cycle so the soldiers can rest and work," said Hall.

And when they are working, soldiers can now where the new ACS, or Army Combat Shirt. It's made of a lightweight cotton and spandex material to help keep your body cool.

Army medical teams are also at the ready with ice sheets in the event a soldier runs the risk of becoming a victim of a heat injury.

"Ice sheets are a way to rapidly cool the body down. We have sheets that we place in ice chests. They're placed in the arm pit area, the groin area and behind the neck in case we have a heat casuality and we need to rapidly bring the body temperature down," Hall said.

Bottom line, army medics say to beat the heat, soldiers must not only drink water and get their nutrients, but exercise during the cooler time of day. It's all about taking precautions and having a plan to avoid serious injury or death.